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the untethered expat: culture shock

I’ve been a bit off lately. I’ve seen it coming, and I recognize it for what it is, but nonetheless, it’s unsettling. I felt it on our school trip to Belem. The last presentation–the culminating speech–was in Portuguese. Again. Chaos erupted across the room as Brazilian friends leaned in to translate for their foreign peers. Someone leaned over and began translating for me. I was hot. I was itchy. I was tired. I was annoyed by an earlier rude interaction. I couldn’t focus on the speaker, I couldn’t focus on the translator, I couldn’t focus. My skin crawled. I left the room Read More

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mindfulness in the classroom: for them, for me, for the world

This past summer, I took the course “Mindful Educator Essentials” from Mindful Schools. I knew from personal experience the power of mindfulness to steady myself, as well as to benefit students coming from traumatized backgrounds. But I was also looking ahead. My future students–now my current students–would largely represent the opposite demographics of my entire teaching experience: wealthy, advantaged, political, prominent. And those kiddos have parents in the same category. And with such privilege comes an enormous amount of weight: the strongest drive to get the best grades and the most extracurricular sports and activities to get into the elit-est schools. Just typing that sentence stresses me Read More

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what our staircase teaches me about mindfulness

When we were searching for apartments in Brazil, we were drawn to those with two floors. When I stumbled upon (pun intended, you’ll see why) the one we are currently living in, we fell in love and just had to make it ours. When people saw the pictures, they all exclaimed the same thing: That staircase! We always wrote it off and said it would be fine, and it is, as long as we’re fully present in the moment when going up or down. It has already taught me quite a bit about being mindful: Slow down. The first couple Read More

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arrival journal: day three

As I write this, I sit on my balcony enjoying the interplay of stars above and apartment lights around and headlights below. Dave and I just shared some conversation about our separate days’ experiences (the first we’ve been apart in awhile) on the balcony while sipping out of cherry blossom mugs the whiskey we packed into our overseas luggage. As you might be able to tell, I am in a much better place than yesterday. Today started with the first of many back to school alarm clock appointments followed by a meditation about going with the flow of life’s direction. Read More

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you, too, are welcome here: the anxieties of change

When I was in high school, I lacked the finesse required to to discern my own levels of stress. Instead, in alignment with what I was taught and that which I believed, I held tightly to the safety net of God: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. In my world: anxiety = atheism. But as much as I ached in my deepest soul to believe this, my body said otherwise. I was plagued with random stomach pains that I could not identify. Sometimes they were Read More

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training the monkey… the mind that is

(Author’s note: I really wanted to title this post “Spanking the Monkey,” but I didn’t want some perverts to open this post thinking it was going to be up their alley.) (Pervert’s note: That’s what she said.) Buddha often spoke of the need to train the monkey mind through meditation and mindfulness. His intention was that our life would be less about narration and commentary and more about the presence and experience itself. To me, the idea of minimizing narration and commentary and analysis and story is quite daunting–and perhaps even backwards. After all, I am an English teacher: I live and love Read More

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on meditation: 2 poems

I recently spent 5 nights at the magical Vallecitos Mountain Ranch participating in an intensive silent meditation retreat for teachers. Wow! More on this to come… But for now I wanted to share two poems inspired by my time there. “Suspension” the mind is a child swinging at birth of motion legs pump furiously to take flight lifted by the wind of joy skyward after the initial peak legs extend and point to another world then retract back beneath falling into gravity’s arms up and down, back and forth, lengthen and folding, inhale and exhale, ebb and flow, rise and fall, sunlight Read More

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present in the pain

Sometimes the stars align so that the same message is being whispered over and over into your ear, at just the right time. A divine echo. Saturday morning’s yoga class was one of those whispers. Led by a pregnant woman whose roundness in her belly was only rivaled by the curve of her carved biceps, she started class with the intention of being present. She shared that being in her second pregnancy lends itself to the tendency to want the carrying and labor part to be over to get to the “best part”–life with the child. But she explored the irony, that even Read More

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the space of hospitality

***This post is part of the June synchroblog that invited bloggers to write about hospitality.*** When I think of hospitality, I think of my mother-in-law: or Mom as I call her and know her. Upon arriving to her house, it is clear she has taken the time to lovingly designate space for us to be, comfortably and naturally. Furniture is moved so that our bed is accessible. Sheets and pillows are purchased and placed so that our skin is greeted warmly. Cups and beverages, with the appropriate spoon, are laid out on the counter so that our morning is seamless. Read More

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when it all falls apart: on senioritis and mindfulness

I write often on this blog space about teaching…and a lot of it is a perky portrait of balloons and bubbles. Not today. Today those balloons and bubbles popped. After yet another constipated conversation of reluctant, low-level thinking from my AP Lit seniors, I drew the discussion to an end, dismantled the circle, and asked students to go to their desks and reflect. As a driven teacher, I refuse to waste class time. As a caring teacher, I refuse to not look behind and beyond the surface actions into why. Why are you so quiet? Why has the quality of your thinking decreased? What’s on Read More